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Author Topic: The noble and difficult art of editing your stuff  (Read 9074 times)
paulnorheim
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« on: September 21, 2007, 11:56:22 AM »
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"Winogrand died of gall bladder cancer, in 1984 at age 56, leaving behind nearly 300,000 unedited images, as well as more than 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film" (Quote from an article about Garry Winogrand on Wikipedia).

20 years ago, reading about the hundreds of thousands of shots that Winogrand left unedited or undeveloped, people found it bizarre and tragic. After the digital revolution, almost every passionate photographer will come to a point where they think: this is my situation too.

We shoot ten times as much as in the film days, and if we, as most of us do, publish stuff on the net, we tend to ignore the art of editing our pictures (not to mention our words, because the same applies to all the -mostly unread – blogs on the web; they exist out there, in a limbo, like undeveloped rolls of text). Editing our own stuff is much harder than finding someone else who has that rare talent.

Not all of us will suffer and die from gall bladder canser, but we will certainly die, and most of our pictures will disappear like Winogrands undeveloped rolls of film, not because all of us lack talent, but because we don´t know how to deal with the unexpected, and almost impossible task of being our own editors.

How do you deal with this?
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paul norheim
feppe
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2007, 12:32:58 PM »
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Excellent topic. My shots per shoot has grown drastically after a move to digital, but digital workflow makes it so much easier to deal with, than using a loupe with positives.

I deal with it by being ruthless to my shots. I use Lightroom, and when I import a CF card I go through it shot by shot. I first go through them once, reject all out-of-focus, badly composed, etc. shots. Then another day I go through them again, giving them stars on an exponential scale (ie. 1 is *yawn*, 3 is good enough to show to my mom, 5 is in the top of all time for my photography). Then yet another day I go through everything with 3-5 stars, and tweak the ratings. I've noticed that doing all this on different days gives me better, more detached perspective than doing it all with the clear memory of the individual shots.

Then I only work on the 4 and 5 star shots in LR/PS, and only show the final photographs to others. Sometimes I go back to different shoots and I might see a shot that I've missed, or that I now like. But that's part of it all.

I wonder what historians will do when they open the archives of a modern photographer after her death, finding literally hundreds of thousands of unreleased shots... That's in case they can find a DVD-reader in year 2070...
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dilip
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2007, 01:01:09 PM »
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How do you deal with this?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=141000\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


I found a simple way of dealing with this exact issue.  I gave up on the belief that people will want to see my archives after I'm gone.  Made life far easier.

--dilip
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2007, 01:04:06 PM »
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Wait ... you're saying that everyone will die?
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alainbriot
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2007, 01:10:47 PM »
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Wait ... you're saying that everyone will die?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=141025\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


To be or not to be . . . a photographer with a huge archive.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 01:11:16 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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paulnorheim
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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2007, 01:34:36 PM »
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Wait ... you're saying that everyone will die?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=141025\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think so. I´m not so sure about where we´ll end up after that...

But assuming that there is a special place in heaven and hell, designed for photographers, some of those unfortunate people going to hell, may be punished to open and browse through hard discs belonging to all amateurs and pro photographers shooting pictures during the first seven years of the 21. century, trying to sort out the keepers from the crap – not to mention all those mediocre 2-3 star pictures
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 02:27:33 PM by paulnorheim » Logged

paul norheim
Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2007, 01:54:17 PM »
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I don´t think that undeveloped film can be included in any sense with the term ´editing´ because if undeveloped there is no editing; there is no picture either, so the load shrinks greatly, if not the waste of silver.

However, I know that´s not the main gist of the discussion, just a side-bar to the thing. But editing is not, as somebody wrote, a thing to do in a hurry; neither is it fair to think that somebody else knows your mind better than you do - all another editor does is apply his own prejudices. These may be more in tune with an imaginary public, but as one who has had several run-ins with picture editors in the Tony Stone (now Getty) days, these people do NOT know any better than you do. In my case, the argument was about national editing. I had my best sales in France; Stone´s people insisted on editing me in London, where I had minimal stock sales success.... go figure who was right - me, wanting my stuff edited in Paris, or Stone wanting to edit it in London.

Furthermore, the amateur will not, in general, and as somebody wrote too, be in a position where anybody else gives a stuff about his archives; not many professional photographers´ archives, either, will elicit any interest. Only a name makes an impact.

So relax, it´ll never happen!

Rob C
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 01:55:17 PM by Rob C » Logged

Tim Gray
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2007, 02:46:45 PM »
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Wait ... you're saying that everyone will die?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=141025\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Not me.  I plan to live forever.   So far, so good....  
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2007, 03:51:49 PM »
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In all seriousness, what happened to Winogrand's undeveloped negatives?
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blansky
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« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2007, 04:10:57 PM »
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An interesting point brought up on APUG one day was that when photographers shot negatives there WAS an archive of their work, however unedited it may be. Also simple family snapshots have been found in attics etc from generations before that offer a unique glimpse into their lives.

Now with digital and the number of pictures that are deleted immediately, as well as the changing state of storage devices, there was a very real concern that many photographers work, amateur as well as professional will dissolve into the ether because 100 years from now we may not be able to read their storage devices or lack thereof.

I know my heirs will be fighting over my stuff probably for all of five minutes.


Michael
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Aboud
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« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2007, 05:19:12 PM »
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Don't shoot so much. Just because one is not paying for film, does not mean that one should not have a discerning eye. Shoot with more forethought and for your heirs' sake - back up everything you care about - twice!
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 05:22:17 PM by Aboud » Logged
paulnorheim
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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2007, 09:24:28 PM »
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When I wrote the short text initiating this thread, my basic point was not a concern about photography as such, but the fact that most of the texts (like blogging), visual products (still images on flicr, movies on YouTube etc), and audio related stuff (from pod casting to music) made today, are not only made with digital means, but also mainly distributed digitally, through internet. In many ways, this is The Age of the Amateurs, and the professionals have to distribute their work through the same channel: the world wide web. For most of us, wanting to create something valuable as writers, photographers, movie makers, musicians etc, the opportunities, compared to just a few years ago, are like being in heaven.
   
To create something valuable (regardless of art form, genre, audience and so on) is just as challenging today as it was ten, fifty or two hundred years ago. The big change is that it is so easy, in 2007, to distribute what you make, whatever the quality of your contribution. And every year, hundreds of books and thousands of articles and tutorials (not to speak of the advertising slogans) are published, encouraging  you to be “creative”.

The message is: everybody has a talent. Everybody can create a masterpiece. Be self confident! This democratisation of writing, photography, movie making and music is a good thing, although some pros are afraid of loosing their jobs. But if you look at the big picture, the lack of editing is the curse of this age (beside the eternal, and sad fact that not everybody has a talent).

The amateurs, the professionals, the people hunting for potential talents in any field, and the public, in short: everybody would gain a lot, if half of the energy spent on encouraging people to be “creative”, and develop their not yet discovered talent, was channeled towards encouraging and learning them to select, delete, edit and present their stuff. This is a lesson that is just as important for the best photographers in the present world, as for the avarage snap shooter; for the Nobel Price writer, as well as the average blogger, with strong opinions about everything from vegetarian food or gender issues, to the geopolitic situation and Armageddon.

The problem that comes with easy distribution, is that you can publish your stuff at the same time as you make it. I write this sentence; and with a click of the mouse, it is distributed to the world. Since the only way to make somebody interested in what you are doing, seems to be delivering new stuff every day, you don´t take the time to edit what you are doing. This way, if you are really lucky (most of us are not), your fate is like the fate of any local, or even international newspaper: it may be interesting the morning it was printed, but not the next day. Hundred years from now, it might become interesting again, unintentionally (the same way as snap shots from 1907 are interesting for us today). But what about tomorrow? Next year? In ten or twenty years time?

I think the aim of the photographer, writer and composer is different from the tasks of a journalist ( “journalist” comes from the french: “jour”, meaning “day”, or “today”).  Of course, editing should be everybodys business. A journalists work has to be edited to be readable, credible etc. (Even those who want somebody to be interested in their private life, must give it a form, and delete the most irrelevant, confusing and digressive parts). But I am adressing this to people who wish to make things that are readable, hearable or lookable next week, next year, or many years from now. And given the way things are distributed today, especially the disappearance of the precious interval between producing and distributing, editing is becoming more difficult.

To illustrate this, we could go back to Garry Winogrand. Long before the last years of his life (at which point, i believe, a crisis in his photograpy, or his life, which may have been inseparable entities, contributed to the increase of undeveloped films and unedited negatives), he preferred to wait for months or years before he looked at what he had done. He needed that critical distance, the distance that only time can provide. Other photographers (and writers as well) have the same habit: the patience of waiting. “Time is money.” But for Winogrand, time was much more valuable than money, if he had the means to survive and continue to shoot and edit, shoot and edit. “The photograph is a new fact, and not the thing itself”, he said, And to discover this new fact, he had to forget what he had made.

Beside the present lack of time (the luxury of time... which only the very rich and the very poor seem to know today), most of us have an other problem: in differents ways than before, we are forced to become our own editors (as mentioned in the initial post).

My personal background is literature. For several years, I was a co-editor and writer in a Norwegian literary magazine. Later I have published three books. In between, I worked as a literary advisor for a couple of Norwegian publishing houses, and as a critic. Some writers are good at editing their own stuff, some are really bad. But even the good ones gain from having another person looking at their work. This I can say, knowing something about working from both sides of that fence. The second eye, seeing things you were not able to see (everybody have their blind spots); unable to see what you thought were there when your wrote your text, took your picture (it existed only in your inspired brain, your intention, your imagination, your emotions, your "vision", not visible in what you presented). Sometimes you are lucky with that “second eye”, sometimes not. They may approve most of what you do, or they may seem brutal in their critisism. But if you recognise what they are pointing at, they may become very valuable for your development and your present work. Because they may see something that you, with your blind spots, are not able to see. If you find some talented person who can become such a “second eye”, be it an editor in a publishing house, or in a photography magazine or gallery (or a friend with an impeccable eye, who does not feel obliged to please you, confirming your way of seeing things), and if you develope a common language when you two together evaluate your texts, pictures, movies, songs, or compositions, you should consider yourself a happy person.

However, this does not solve the current problem. If you distribute your work online, and you are tempted to publish it while it is “fresh” (whether a text blog or photographs), this is very easy to do. But you have to become your own editor, responsible for everything. If you write, you will have to do the proof reading, grammar, content, as well as working on the composition and style. And if you take pictures: selection, creating connections, editing, seeing the pictures as a whole entity, or as parts, functioning within a bigger context (or, if you will,  in opposition to the very concept of a body of work). And since you don`t have that “second eye”, helping you to distinguishing between the mediocre, the good and the superb stuff, finding the pictures that shows what you really want to say, you are in trouble.

You are forced to become that “second eye” yourself. To mentally transform yourself, to distance yourself from the private circumstances and personal emotions, becoming somebody else, with a different point of view. This is very hard for most people. And if you don´t spend some time, some patience, with the critical distanse that only time can provide, and if you don´t even care about this issue, you may even be in bigger trouble.

Try to forget some of the pictures you have taken, some of the words you have written. Put them in a mental wine cellar. If they still, after you have forgotten them, and then rediscovered them, have a nice taste, other people may enjoy them too.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 09:31:15 PM by paulnorheim » Logged

paul norheim
AndyF2
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« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2007, 09:38:20 PM »
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...when photographers shot negatives there WAS an archive of their work.

Now with digital and the number of pictures that are deleted immediately, as well as the changing state of storage devices, there was a very real concern that many photographers work, amateur as well as professional will dissolve into the ether because 100 years from now we may not be able to read their storage devices or lack thereof.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=141066\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
At that time, the photographers producing significant work were more easily found; there were fewer ordinary folk publishing images.  So the talented photographers stood out, and they did leave behind a physical archive of work.

Now, everyone is publishing.  The effective noise level makes it difficult for talented artists to be noticed, and the electronic file format is short lived and highly susceptible to poor archiving practices, inadverent deletion, and overwriting with new edits.

So despite the increasingly high level of technology in digital photography, will the significant (photographic) artists still become known and identified only by their archival printed work?  It will still be only those people who spend the effort to develop (an inadequate term) their work, print it archivally, and have it collected by others.

A peculiar way to ensure the original digital file can still be read in the future, no matter how many generations of digital media formats come and go, is to print the binary contents of the raw file itself onto archival media.  If it can be seen, and the original file format understood, it can be scanned in some way and imported into whatever file format is used 100 years from now.  A CD may have oxidized and Flash memory cell contents have dissipated, but methods can always be written to import data that's visible.

Andy
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2007, 09:53:14 PM »
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In his blog, The Online Photographer, Mike Johnston wrote an essay, Reify and Redact, that is applicable to this discussion.  Take it on as a challenge!

(The "Gordon" referred to is not me!)
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 09:54:41 PM by gordonsbuck » Logged

paulnorheim
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« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2007, 11:03:20 PM »
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Gordon,
 
Mike`s essay is excellent. I read T.O.P. almost every day, but this one passed unnoticed, as I was very busy at that time.
   Thanks for reminding me – and yes, this is very related to what I tried to express.
   I am well aware of Mike Johnstons concerns when it comes to evaluating and presenting work. In general, I think people now should spend less time worrying about art & talent, and more about editing. But while reading Mikes essay, I realized that I am talking as much to myself as to others, and perhaps I have said enough for a while now.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 11:05:50 PM by paulnorheim » Logged

paul norheim
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« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2007, 01:12:44 AM »
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"Wait ... you're saying that everyone will die?"

in this story no one gets out alive!
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feppe
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« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2007, 03:49:26 AM »
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Quote
...
Beside the present lack of time (the luxury of time... which only the very rich and the very poor seem to know today), most of us have an other problem: in differents ways than before, we are forced to become our own editors (as mentioned in the initial post).
...
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=141127\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Paul, excellent points throughout that post.

The worst thing about the rise of the amateur photographer - and I'm an amateur myself - is that many of us just throw up whatever we shoot on the web, without editing or even culling. I just hate seeing a nice shot somewhere, clicking on the link or googling the photographer, to find his web page has seven hundred unedited shots from last week's shoot, all presented on a massive thumbnail page. How the hell am I supposed to find which ones are worth taking a closer look at?

The photographer could be just as good as the photo that initially piqued my interest. But presenting work which is not indicative of your best efforts is disrespectful to your audience, and counter-productive to your progress as a photographer. (Please note I'm not talking about photo blogs to present your shots to friends.)

If you as a photographer don't take the time to cull and hopefully edit your photos yourself, don't expect me to do so. The mere volume of photography websites means I don't have the time or the energy to do that myself.

That's why I so much enjoy visiting pages by Michael, Alain Briot, other pros, and the many excellent sites posted for critique here. Photographers here don't waste their or my time by posting their worst work, and generally present it in a pleasing and cohesive manner.
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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2007, 04:10:39 AM »
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This is all becoming somewhat precious.

You simply can´t make a one-fits-all statement that a photographer, writer, painter or other form of artist shall fit into a given framework of concept and realisation.

To be brutally frank, the original poster´s first and subsequent posts in this thread could themselves do with a little tighter editing; the ability to do it for another seems not to have been available for self-consumption.

Cutting to the essence of the thing, we have to accept that photography, when an art, if ever, is still a  minor one. A painter takes his time before setting the realisation into motion if only because of the bloody hard work involved in getting somewhere; the photographer and writer of today, both digitally empowered, can photograph and write with no more effort than the click of a shutter or a tap on a keyboard - much as I´m doing right now. Had the effort and costs of film and paper photography continued, had people still to write and rewrite on paper, neither the camera units sold nor the internet traffic of today would be as they are. In short, if there is no pain there will be no real gain.

It is all too easy today and as a direct consequence of that, quality has flown the coop.

Rob C
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #18 on: September 22, 2007, 09:48:36 AM »
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Gordon,
 
Mike`s essay is excellent. I read T.O.P. almost every day, but this one passed unnoticed, as I was very busy at that time.
   Thanks for reminding me – and yes, this is very related to what I tried to express.
   I am well aware of Mike Johnstons concerns when it comes to evaluating and presenting work. In general, I think people now should spend less time worrying about art & talent, and more about editing. But while reading Mikes essay, I realized that I am talking as much to myself as to others, and perhaps I have said enough for a while now.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Mike's Reify and Redact essay really hit home for me.  I decided to take on the challenge and make my own limited (and very limited edition) portfolio.  After a few delays and procrastinations, I've finally finished.  My thoughts and results are in my [a href=\"http://lightdescription.blogspot.com/]blog [/url]-- one among many of the unread that you mentioned.
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2007, 11:06:41 AM »
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Mike's Reify and Redact essay really hit home for me.  I decided to take on the challenge and make my own limited (and very limited edition) portfolio.  After a few delays and procrastinations, I've finally finished.  My thoughts and results are in my blog -- one among many of the unread that you mentioned.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=141218\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Gordon

I see your address as Baton Rouge, forever in my mind along with all the other jazz/blues connotations that go to make songs about the States so infinitely more interesting than those - they hardly exist - about little towns in England.

My geography without a map is fairly sketchy, but I have to ask you if you can pick up KLRZFM from Lerose on your radio. I have it on most nights through the computer, and though some shows are better than others, that swamp pop rock that goes out around the world from there is devine. The roots of jazz still flourish, even if altered and known by other names. I suppose that there´s an argument that says country and western might pass as white blues, but swamp pop will do just fine for me!

Rob C
« Last Edit: September 22, 2007, 11:07:50 AM by Rob C » Logged

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